You know what’s no fun? Being a scapedog. This noble creature
has simple needs. He just wants a crate with a blankie and lots of wet coffee filters and styrofoam meat trays hidden under it. He wants people to tell him what to do, and he wants to smell their wonderful, wonderful feet. He wants to go outside and then come inside and then to outside and then come in and then maybe go outside for a bit. He wants to eat snow. And he wants to protect the HELL out of the baby, which is sweet.
However, pretty much all I do is yell at him, and the more I yell at him, the more devoted he becomes, trying to win my favor.
This is why we got a boy dog. I’m not saying that all men are like this, but I will say that this is why we got a boy dog.
I know he’s a good boy. So I’m trying to make myself feel better about him by reminiscing about all the other pets we’ve had, and how much more awful they were than this supremely irritating dog. For instance . . .
The cat who was our prisoner. I’ve written about this wretched animal before.
Never in my life have I been hated so passionately as I was hated by that cat. This is the animal who would sit on the couch, wait for me to walk in, make eye contact, pee profoundly, and then casually get up and walk out, making sure to brush past my ankles in a devastatingly ironic pantomime of feline affection, just to show us that she could if she wanted to. This is the cat who, in the time it took for me to get my shoes on to go to the vet, chewed her way out of the cat carrier and disappeared. This is the cat who actually burrowed into the wall and didn’t come out for several days, presumably plotting some horrible vengeance on the family who so barbarically gave her food and shelter.
One night, I had a moment of clarity and simply opened the front door. Propelled by a white hot loathing, she sped off into the darkness whence she came, and we never saw each other again.
The frog that died of ennui after costing us millions of dollars. If you factor in the emotional cost. My son found this frog in the sandbox, and we made some kind of bogus deal that I never thought he’d be able to fulfill — keeping his room clean or some pie-in-the-sky like that. So of course he did it, and he earned a frog.
We quickly learned that, despite spending his days doing exactly nothing, a frog is a needy creature. He needs a tank that has water and gravel, sand and moss. Okay. But he also needs live crickets to eat, and, even though he is a yard frog, he can’t eat yard crickets. Nope, they have to be crickets that cost money. And those crickets have to be gut loaded with special stinky calcium powder or something, and you have to time the feeding so that the crickets’ bellies will still be full before the frog eats them.
At one point in my research, I came across the phrase “economical cricket husbandry” and sobbed aloud.
Now, the crickets get dehydrated pretty easily; but they will also drown themselves if you give them water, such as the water you might find in a frog tank. So you have to buy a separate container just for the crickets, and in it, you must put special hydrating gel, which the crickets absorb through their horrible abdomens. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s more upsetting than that. Oh, and do not leave a bag of crickets on your dashboard when it’s hot out, or you will have to make a second trip to PetSmart. And all the PetSmart people will know what you have done.
Also, froggie needs sunlight, but not direct sunlight, because that will burn him, but not indirect sunlight, because then he won’t get the correct gamma rays or something, and he will develop some kind of crippling bone disease.
Froggie must have a special light fixture to prevent him from becoming Noodle Bone Frogzilla. But don’t worry, you have a PetSmart discount card! So the special bulb will cost a mere $38.
My question is, how the hell do frogs survive in sandboxes?
Anyway, our frog did not survive. He simply was miserable and made us miserable for many, many months, and then one morning, he looked even more dead that usual, and that was the end of that.
The worst mother fish ever. I’ve kept fish off and on for decade, and I’ve learned two things: One: when you have a really nice set-up, with plants and bottom feeders and Roman ruins, and you buy a new heater and it doesn’t seem to be heating up the water? So you keep turning it up, and it’s still not heating the water? So you turn it up some more, and then some more, and it’s still not heating the water up? You might want to make sure it’s plugged in. And, you might want to make sure you turn it down again before you plug it in. Unless you intended to make bouillabaisse with a side dish of ancient Roman ruins.
The second thing I learned was: do not get too attached. One time we had a fish who turned out, in keeping with the general theme of the household, to be pregnant. It gave birth to approximately 93 teensy little adorable fishlings. Or, was it only about 70. Huh, looks like there’s only about 30 now. Or, wow, there can’t be more than– OH, THIS IS HORRIBLE. Quick, look up what to do when the mother fish is eating all the babies! Okay, run out and buy this expensive little mesh isolation nursery thing! Phew, now they will be safe, and shame on you, you unnatural mother! I know you’re just a fish, but–
OH, THIS IS HORRIBLE!
Yep, the mother fish was sucking her babies through the mesh and eating them anyway.
At this point, a responsible pet owner can only put a blanket over the tank and take the kids out for ice cream until they stop crying.
The three doomed parakeets. One escaped out the window when we cleaned its cage. One got a chill and keeled over suddenly. And one simply got more and more despondent until it started kind of falling apart, which is the worst thing I’ve ever seen a bird do. I wasn’t sure how to handle it, and so my husband asked grimly, “Do we have a paper bag?” His plan was to put the bird in a paper bag and run over it with the car.
This is actually not a terrible idea, and I’m not sure why it makes me want to laugh hysterically; but it was about 17 years ago, and I’m still giggling. (We ended up bringing it to the humane society, who charged us $15 to gas the poor s.o.b. And they didn’t even give us the cage back!)
The tadpole of futility. We have this wonderful town pond, which has one section full of tadpoles and salamanders. The kids love seeing how many they can catch.
One day, feeling expansive after basking in the sun for a few hours, I made a tactical error, and allowed them to bring a tadpole home. We installed it in a pickle jar and it became the centerpiece on the dining room table.
We named it “Bingo” and prepared to watch the miracle of life unfold before our eyes.
Instead, it basically acted like a dead pickle with a mouth. It ate and ate and ate and ate, and got more and more bloated. And that’s it. One day, the kids started spazzing out, shrieking that the tadpole had pooped. It turned out to have sprouted a leg. Just one leg. And that’s it.
More weeks went by, and it never grew any more legs. It just continued to eat limp lettuce until I couldn’t stand looking at it anymore, and dumped it into the stream. Vaya con dios, pickle.
The phantom hamster. Our most current terrible pet. We had some gerbils, and they were pretty good, but then one died. So, because I don’t argue about these things, we got a dwarf hamster, and he was pretty good.
Until he got out. How he did this, I do not know. He certainly doesn’t appear strong or intelligent or even competent, but somehow he got out. This produced extreme sadness in the boy community of the household for a week or so, until — and again, I would like to note that boys are different from girls — the joyous news was spread that the hamster appears to be alive and well, only he is living inside the walls! Hooray, apparently!
So now we have what may be, according to your point of view, the perfect pet: he requires no food, at least not any intended for him; he requires no care; he requires no changes of bedding, for reasons that I care not to think about. But we know that he’s there. And he is ours.
And that brings us up to the dog. Well, he does love the baby. Boy, does he love the baby. And I know for a fact that he would not fit inside a paper bag.
It’ll have to be enough.